Sunday, March 8, 2009

Barren Bitches Book Brigade


It's that time again.

This time we read "Never Let Me Go," by Kazuo Ishiguro. I must say, this book really hit me hard. I suppose I will get to that later on though.

Oh, and if you have not read the book... stop now. The questions may give away some hard hitting stuff in the book. And this is one book you do not want to have ruined for you. Go into reading it like new fallen snow, pure and innocent. No reading about the plot, no reading this post, don't skip ahead, and no preconceived notions.

The Q and A session is just below, but I wanted to remind you that, once you're done here, you should hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

Okay then, formalities aside, let the think tank begin.

3) One thing that struck me while reading the book is that the characters seem very passive. Although certain knowledge is withheld from them along the way, and they do have questions, they do not really rebel or protest their fate, or try to escape. They seem quite accepting of the future that has been laid out for them. Why do you think this is so?


This is the thing that really ate me throughout the book. Why didn't they fight harder to be free, why didn't they ever try running away, why didn't they scream. And then, at the end, as sad as it was, I realized why.

I knew the feeling. Learned helplessness. When you're raised in an environment being told that it is the only way you can live, you eventually accept it. You don't look for a way to escape, you don't look outside the walls, you settle yourself to a lifetime of whatever it is. But I also know that if you're strong you can fight it.

I grew up in a bad home. We were poor, my family was uneducated, most of them drug addicts, highschool dropouts, pregnant in their teens, and I was raised being told that life sucks and that this is all I can ever hope for. I set myself against it very young. I decided I did not want that life. I decided I would live my life different. I got married young, I did not get pregnant in highschool (I avoided any relationship like the plague, I was too scared of getting pregnant to even date. Oh, the irony.) I am the first one in my family to get a college degree, and three years ago I finally went from lower class to middle class. Of course, then I decided I wanted the whole cake instead of just a piece of it... and then the baby never came. But I have yet to give up on that. I am going to have the family and the life I always wanted.

And so you can see my bafflement at their resignation. I know that if you want something bad enough you can break the siren call of learned helplessness. You don't have to resign yourself to live the life others have set before you. But they did. I know, some of them tried to fight it. But once they were told that there was no way, they gave up. Why didn't they run? People couldn't tell that they were clones without being told so, could they? I can't wrap my brain around it.

And then I wondered if maybe it is because they didn't want to escape it. But if that was the case... why? I can't understand.

I am interested to see what other people thought about this question, because as you can see... I'm lost in thought.

5) At the end of Never Let Me Go, they mentioned “designer babies” had turned people against the whole clone issue. Now, ABC news featured a story tonight (3/3/09) about parents being able to build their baby http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=6998135&page=1 (a bit of reality reflecting art). How does this make you feel? Do you think PGD should only be used to avoid health issues and genetic defects? Is it ok to use it to have a baby who can save your current child’s life through marrow transplant? Is it ok to pick hair type and eye color?

Those news stories upset me quite a bit. I am against using it to pick what a child looks like cosmetically, and am on the fence about them using it to prevent defects. I am against it for cosmetic reasons because first of all, it just seems wrong to me. It's like you're saying you can't love a child that doesn't have that hair color you want them to have, or that they need to have that eye color or else they're wrong. It would send a horrible message to the child, they would be under the impression that if they hadn't looked the way they did mommy and daddy wouldn't love them. At least, that's the way I see it.

I can completely understand using it to prevent a defect and serious health issues, however I don't think I would do that. I suppose that it should be left to each individual, like anything else in our reproductive business it should be a joint decision between us and our doctors. Part of me thinks that by doing this it sends the message again that the parents wouldn't love those children if they were born that way, or that the with these children with defects and genetic issues are are less than other people. For example, if someone had a child with cancer. If they could go back in time and not have them, and instead have a genetically selected child... would they? The embyo's aren't those children, they aren't those people. I get that. I do. The embryos are not the same as living children that you are attached to... But... I don't know.

Let me explain where I am coming from here... My little brother has a sister who is mentally handicapped, and that's just the way she was meant to be. She is beautiful and loving, and I can't imagine her any other way. Who she is, is who she is. She is my age, with the mind of a three year old, she's oversized, out of proportion, and she is perfect the way she is. And in my mind I have trouble picturing a world where someone would chose not to create her.

As I said, it should be up to the individual. But, I don't think I would ever do it.

6) If you knew with certainty that you had a child with a shortened life expectancy, would you raise the child any differently? For example, are there certain experiences you'd want to ensure that they had? Are there things that you wouldn't bother to make them do (flossing? eat healthy foods? go to school?) since they wouldn't have the same long-term impact as they would for other children? Would it make a difference in your parenting if you knew exactly at what age the child was expected to die as opposed to a general sense of foreshortened lifespan?

I think it would to an extent. I wouldn't sweat the little things as much. I probably wouldn't push the flossing, that's for sure. I am sure I would try to give them the best life I could in what short time they had. But I wouldn't alter it so much that they didn't do things like other children. I would have them go to school, build friendships, enjoy everyday as best they could. I would want them to feel normal, but at the same time I would want them to live each and every day to the fullest.

Of course, isn't that the irnoy. You can have a healthy happy child, and lose them the next day in an accident or to an illness you never saw coming. So really, each day should be lived to the fullest whether you know your child is dying or not. We all die, the only question is when, and that is the question we don't always know.

Okay, don't forget to go visit other blogs on the tour.

8 comments:

Kristin said...

Very interesting take on the questions. You and I had a similar response to the question of why they were passive about their future.

As for the question about PIGD, the only thing I would use it for is to weed out defects incompatible with life (if there were ones that ran in my family).

Another Dreamer said...

Hmm, thank you for letting me know what you thought about that one Kristin. It's good to see other views on issues like that. Especially when it's such slippery territory.

loribeth said...

I couldn't articulate the phrase "learned helplessness," but that's partly what I thought too. The idea that maybe they didn't want to escape is interesting. If all your friends are proceeding toward their "completion," are you going to be the one who breaks ranks? Is your life going to be worth living without them around?

I agree with your takes on the other two questions too!

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

"Of course, isn't that the irnoy. You can have a healthy happy child, and lose them the next day in an accident or to an illness you never saw coming. So really, each day should be lived to the fullest whether you know your child is dying or not. We all die, the only question is when, and that is the question we don't always know."

That's so true! As I was answering that question myself, that's what started rolling around in my brain, making me wonder what I need to change now to make sure we savor every moment and live our lives to the fullest.

Also, re:PGD, I really resonated with your thoughts. While I too understand the idea of selecting to avoid defects/disabilities, I cannot imagine actually choosing to do that (and of course the idea of selecting based on eye color is completely baffling to me). I spent about a year working with children with disabilities and it really opened my heart and eyes up to the beauty and life and completeness of these people. It wasn't that I thought they were less-than before--I'm not sure how to explain it. But after spending day after day with them I was able to see them as individuals, perfect and wonderful and full of life and personality instead of seeing the disability that so many people couldn't see past. I also can't imagine not having them in the world or not having them as a part of my life. And I certainly can't imagine choosing not to have a child based on a disability, just personally. I don't even want to have those tests run during pregnancy because it wouldn't affect my decision to carry a child to term (well, and let's just be honest, I'm ecstatic just to imagine being able to carry another child to term, and ALIVE at that--it seems like too much to have a lot of other requests about what my child looks like or that they subscribe to some idea of normal or free from problems/disability/defect--alive and reasonably healthy is all I feel I can ask for these days).

Melissa said...

I liked the term "learned helplessness" I think it definitely applies to the characters. I wondered about that too, why didn't they just stay in the cities when they could? but then what would they do? where would they live? work? sleep? nothing would be certain long term. I think certainty is so much safer, not necessarily better.

Cassandra said...

Your answer to the designer babies question makes me think of the many parents who don't see their (disabled or otherwise) children as perfect. Baby-designing aside, there are plenty of people who would opt for their child never to have been born if they could go back and change things (whether through abortion, never conceiving...).

The point you make about the child realizing that their parents wouldn't have loved them if they looked different seems to apply already to many who do PIGD for sex selection (outside of selection to avoid sex-linked diseases). As well as many kids conceived through non-PIGD. I know people who believe in their heart that their parents wanted a child of a different sex -- for example, the middle child in a girl-girl-boy family, whose parents probably would have stopped at two if it had been girl-boy. Or girls in families from cultures where girls are undervalued.

I guess my point is that there are all sorts of reasons to not love a child enough, if that's one's proclivity. Elective PIGD just gives people a tool for selecting the child they think they want.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I love how our personal story informs how we read the story. Thank you for sharing these parts of you. I went the honourable death route, but I can see where their lack of action is completely frustrating, especially knowing what can be achieved when someone extends outside the box.